2 Techniques for Writing Stronger Hooks

Complicate Your Hooks

A great Hook concept that is also written well can pack a punch, but consider how you can add complications to layer the effect and really knock the reader over.

Complication is a form of layering that can add tension to your story while further embedding the reader into the scene. For example: let’s say the car is not just racing toward the cliff (which could be stopped if he hit the brakes or changed direction), but that the driver is fighting for control of a gun and the brake is blocked by the small case of diamonds in the foot well. Those are complications that make an "easy out" impossible for the character.

The character and the reader are trapped in an untenable situation. Moreover, the gun and the diamonds add subtext, because they hint at other backstory, like a robbery or a double-cross. We didn't just complicate the action, we added physical elements to the scene that were complicated all on their own.

Remember: adding complication adds tension and suspense, and that's great way to capture an agent or editor’s attention.

Pile On the Layers

Sometimes more is more.

A wonderful teacher named Mary Buckham teaches that, in an industry where bestselling writers use multiple types of Hooks in one line, writers must out-do the bestsellers to get published.
That means offering not just one Hook, but several.

Where a Romance usually has three Hooks, write five. Where a Steampunk has four, write six. How do you do this? You layer the amount of questions a reader will ask in response to your Hook.

Using the previous example, the reader might ask: why is he heading toward a cliff AND why are there diamonds in the car AND which character brought the gun AND why are they still fighting when they are both about to die?

Here’s another example: “Tony Ferret buried the money, the jewels, and the girl in the first grave, so that when he returned in ten years, he’d only have to break his back digging one damn hole.”

Make the Final Question a Real Ringer

In one line we introduce a unique character and a surprising situation, we foreshadow events of ten years from now, we offer a morbid kind of internal dialogue, and we set a shocking tone/theme of the book. We layered at least six Hooks (i.e. created 6 questions the reader might ask).

Of course, the reader's first inclination will be to ask "What happened to the girl who's getting buried this time?" But we end leaving the reader with subtext that includes the biggest hook of all, and the real ringer: "Why did he dig more than one hole this time, and who’s in it the other grave?"

Now the only question remaining is “How many Hooks can you create in your first line?”

*This material was excerpted from my First 50 Pages workshop which runs Sept. 5 - Oct 14, 2016 https://editordevil.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_2.html